Social distancing measures have made canvassing and fundraising money more challenging for congressional candidates.
The Florida’s 3rd Congressional District Republican candidates have had to adapt their campaigns online amid the pandemic. They shared details about their experiences and campaign contributions with The Alligator.
Florida’s 3rd Congressional District includes the counties of Alachua, Clay, Putnam, Bradford, Union and parts of Marion County, and the primary election will take place on Aug. 18.
The amount of campaign contributions of each candidate mentioned in this article come from the Federal Election Commission, an independent agency that regulates election campaign finances in the country.
The FEC reports show data through July 29 for Kat Cammack, Todd Chase and Gavin Rollins. Regarding Bill Engelbrecht and Joe Millado’s financial reports, Myles Martin, a FEC public affairs specialist, wrote in an email to The Alligator that the most recent report the FEC has received from both campaign committees is the July Quarterly reports, which covers financial activity through June 30. The pre-primary report for both candidates’ campaigns is missing.
Martin added that the FEC has an Administrative Fine Program that may assess civil penalties against committees for late or non-filed reports.
The FEC reports disclose details of candidates’ itemized individual and corporate contributions, but does not give the number or any other details about unitemized individual contributions. “Itemized individual contributions” are donations that exceed $200, whereas “unitemized individual contributions” are those below $200.
Despite multiple attempts to contact them, Republicans James St. George, Judson Sapp, Amy Pope Wells, Ryan Chamberlin and David Theus did not reply in time for publication.
Kat Cammack, 32, is the former campaign manager and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Ted Yoho and third in terms of campaign contributions among Republican candidates running for Congress. She has raised $492,374.96.
“Everybody has really seen a difference pre-COVID and post-COVID,” Cammack said.
Cammack’s campaign has been affected because the pandemic’s associated social distancing requirements have made it more difficult to make direct, in-person contact with voters, she said.
Cammack said her team has been forced to adapt and innovate. This has included having a “robust” phone banking program and fundraising over zoom, FaceTime or over the phone, she said.
The candidate said she is running her campaign with the help of a couple dozen interns and a core team of eight people. She did not give a specific number of interns. All, except her campaign manager, who is a volunteer, are being paid, she added.
With regard to campaign contributions, Cammack said that everyone has seen a downward trend in money donations.
“The giving has been a bit of a roller coaster,” Cammack said.
Cammack’s FEC report reflects $423,608.35 in itemized contributions, and among itemized contributions, $66,109.16 comes from WinRed, an online fundraising platform for Republican candidates launched in 2019 and endorsed by President Donald Trump.
The FEC report also shows $24,564.60 in unitemized individual contributions and $23,850 coming from Political Action Committees (PACs) and other political committee contributions. PACs, according to the FEC, are committees that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and labor unions to finance independent political activity.
Cammack’s PACs list includes Tea Party Express, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Credit Council, I-PAC JAX and the U.S. Israel PAC, both of which are committees that support pro-Israel ideologies. Cammack also lent $20,000 to her campaign in December 2019.
Cammack said that she has received money from PACs because they are associations that come together and decide to contribute to candidates who support their interests, such as the farmers who are members of the Farm Bureau Federation. The same applies with pro-Israel PACs, she said, because she has worked with the Jewish community and has a very pro-Israel stance when it comes to foreign policy.
The 32-year-old Republican candidate has been endorsed by Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, Alachua Mayor Gib Coeper, Senator Rand Paul and Tom Yoho, Rep. Yoho’s brother, among others.
Todd Chase, 53, served for six years as a Gainesville City commissioner. With $355,484.24, he is fourth in campaign contributions among Republicans.
“We’re following health guidelines, conducting a majority of work remotely and practicing caution when meeting voters,” Chase wrote in an email about his campaign.
Chase could not give a specific number of how many people are working with him on his campaign, but said that it is a combination of grassroots community efforts, which are political or economic movements, experienced professionals and volunteers.
The candidate wrote that his initial fundraising efforts were hampered by COVID-19. However, he wrote that his background as commissioner and former U.S. Navy officer have attracted voter support.
Chase’s FEC report reflects $329,784 in itemized individual contributions and $18,536 under unitemized contributions.
He has made 16 contributions to his campaign for a total of $1,914.20.
Chase’s report reflects he has received one $5,000 PAC contribution from Full House, a leadership PAC affiliated to former representative from Nevada Joe Heck.
The 53-year-old candidate said that the money raised will be spent engaging voters on television, radio, mail, social media, signs, as well as in office supplies, marketing materials and payroll.
Chase’s endorsements include State Senators Keith Perry and Aaron Bean; the city of Alachua’s mayor Robert Wilford; and president of the Gainesville Fraternal Order of Police Sgt. Sheldon McKinzie, among others.
Gavin Rollins, 34, is currently in his second term as a Clay county commissioner and is running for Congress for the first time. With $179,907.20, he is behind Amy Pope Wells in campaign contributions among Republicans.
Rollins said that campaigning amid the pandemic has been tough because it has been harder to go out and connect with people.
He did not specify how many people are in his team, but said that they have been creative doing town halls, mailing people and doing videos for social media. They have also campaigned knocking on doors while wearing masks and stepping back to keep people healthy, he added.
Rollins said they have to balance keeping the community healthy and protecting the economy.
“We can't shut everything down because there's health consequences related to shutting down the economy in the same way there's health consequences to COVID spreading,” he said.
Rollins did not give a specific number, but he said he works with a core paid team and hundreds of volunteers.
Rollins’ FEC report shows he has received $117,625.00 in itemized individual contributions. Unitemized individual contributions total to $9,782.20.
The FEC report also shows that Rollins lent $50,000 to his campaign at the end of March and that he received $2,500 from Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. Good Government Committee, a PAC affiliated with Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc., a company specialized in cellulose-based products that is based in Jacksonville.
Rollins has been endorsed by the Florida Family Action; Maj. Gen. (retired) Douglas Burnett, the U.S.’s longest-serving Air Force officer; and Tyler Yoho, Rep. Ted Yoho’s son, among others.
Both Bill Engelbrecht and Joe Dallas Millado’s campaign contributions have not been updated under the FEC report. The numbers below reflect contributions through June 30.
Bill Engelbrecht, 54, is running for Congress for the first time. As of June 30, with $68,530 in campaign contributions, he is behind Ryan Chamberlin.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and not having participated in a race before, Engelbrecht said that going to different meetings, trying to set up meet and greets, having zoom meetings, making calls in between and making sure to listen to the public has been exciting, but a lot to handle.
“Every day is a whirlwind,” he said.
The venues where he has had public appearances have wanted people to wear a mask and a lot of times they have already been set up to practice the six foot of social distancing, Engelbrecht said.
Engelbrecht did not give an exact number of volunteers working on his campaign, but said he is only paying a consultant and a social media person.
Engelbrecht said that when the pandemic hit and everything was shut down, the majority of the candidates agreed not to try to fundraise during that time frame, because it was insensitive and selfish to ask for money from people experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic.
“When you're that insensitive with getting campaign funds, then you're going to be insensitive when it comes to Congress and taking care of your constituents,” Engelbrecht said.
According to Engelbrecht’s FEC report, as of June 30, he had received $12,825 from 23 itemized individuals contributions with an average of $557.61. The report also reflects $4,605 in unitemized individual contributions and $51,100 coming from loans made by himself. Engelbrecht’s report shows he has not received any PAC contributions.
The money he has raised has been used to pay for advertising such as social media and sign expenses, he said.
Joe Dallas Millado, 37, former legislative aide for Florida’s 6th District Rep. Cliff Stearns, is running for Congress for the first time. As of June 30, with $15,967.25 in campaign contributions, he is the lowest-funded Republican candidate in the race.
Millado said that his campaign has been challenging because people always say they want somebody that is not funded by lobbyists, people who work to influence legislators, and he is trying to achieve that.
The candidate said he does not have teams of people he pays and that he does most of the work himself. He said he works only with four to five volunteers.
Millado said that COVID-19 has affected his campaign but his opponents’ as well. The pandemic made him think outside the box and do things nobody else was doing, he added.
“We're going to have to be smart enough to be able to outlet arkans without the resources whatsoever, and lean on the merits of the candidate,” Millado said. “All great things have small beginnings, and I think that this is one of those moments.”
Millado said he has not asked for money from anybody.
“Anybody wanna donate? So be it,” Millado said. “We have a percentage of a percentage of a percentage of what the other candidates have, yet we are in every single conversation because people could see that I'm different.”
Millado’s FEC report shows $3,350 come from 11 itemized individual contributions no bigger than $500 and $3,417.25 from unitemized individual contributions. The report also shows that he has contributed $9,200 to his campaign and has not received any loans or PAC contributions.
In FEC reports, ‘itemized individual contributions’ are donations that exceed $200 and disclose donors’ information, whereas ‘unitemized individual contributions’ includes donations below $200, which are only shown as a total and do not disclose any donor’s information.